190516 Selena Gomez
Selena Gomez Image Credit: AFP

Backed by an international concert hosted by Selena Gomez and headlined by Jennifer Lopez, Global Citizen is unveiling an ambitious campaign to help medical workers in the world’s poorest countries quickly receive COVID-19 vaccines.

The anti-poverty organisation is announcing the musical event — ‘VAX Live: The Concert to Reunite the World’ — with the goal of enlisting corporations and philanthropists to raise $22 billion for global vaccinations. The concert, which airs May 8 on ABC, CBS and FOX in the US, as well as on iHeartMedia radio stations and YouTube, will also showcase the Foo Fighters, Eddie Vedder, J Balvin and H.E.R.

The acts will be recorded at SoFi Stadium in Los Angeles.

Ahead of the event, Hugh Evans, CEO of Global Citizen, highlighted the magnitude of the problem his organisation aims to address.

Jennifer Lopez
Jennifer Lopez Image Credit: Shutterstock

“There are 27 million healthcare workers globally who don’t have access to the vaccine,” Evans said. “I’m 38 years old, and it’s not ethical for me to have access to the vaccine before these heroic first responders and community health workers. So we need governments to start urgently donating those doses.”

The Global Citizen programme is among of a growing web of nonprofits and activists that are seeking to achieve wider, more equitable distribution of COVID-19 vaccines. As of this month, Evan said, 60 nations had still not yet received any COVID-19 vaccines.

Copy of MUSIC-FOO-FIGHTERS-ADV07-1-1612336585834
Foo Fighters, from left: Pat Smear, Chris Shiflett, Taylor Hawkins, Dave Grohl, Rami Jaffee and Nate Mendel, in Los Angeles, Jan. 13, 2021. The band’s new album, “Medicine at Midnight,” is a slight pivot. (Magdalena Wosinska/The New York Times) Image Credit: NYT

“Low-income countries not only need this welcome fundraising effort” they need access to COVID-19 vaccine doses,” Tom Hart, the North American executive director of another nonprofit, The ONE Campaign, said last month. “The United States has secured over 550 million excess doses that could be used to help end the global pandemic faster.”

A week later, Gayle Smith, The ONE Campaign’s president and CEO, was selected by the Biden Administration for the new State Department position of coordinator of global COVID response and health security.

Global Citizen, which normally focuses on fighting severe poverty, became involved with COVID-19 vaccines out of what it calls necessity.

“We can’t get back to ending extreme poverty while 150 million people have been pushed back into extreme poverty this year due to the pandemic,” Evans said. “Everything else is academic until we can get it under control.”

The advocacy organisation last year developed what it calls ‘A Recovery Plan for the World’, which it hopes will simultaneously address COVID-19, the climate crisis, hunger and education issues, as well as racial equity. Under that plan, Global Citizen secured $1.5 billion in commitments from the Group of Seven industrialised democracies. Eventually, though, it recognized that greater awareness and funding were needed.

As he described it, ‘VAX Live’ will be the first globally televised effort to lobby world leaders to help achieve more equitable vaccine distribution. The event is also intended to raise commitments for the billions of dollars that are needed to send 2 billion vaccine doses, in addition to COVID-19 tests, to the world’s poorest countries by year’s end.

Selena Gomez-1618391679401
Selena Gomez Image Credit: AP

To Evans, Gomez is an ideal host to press those points to the people who needed to hear them the most.

“Selena Gomez is obviously an incredible leader in her own right,” he said. “She has one of the largest social followings on the planet, and she also is a true leader among young people and in the Latinx community.”

Gomez, for her part, said she felt honored to be chosen.

“This is a historic moment to encourage people around the world to take the COVID-19 vaccine when it becomes available to them, call on world leaders to share vaccine doses equitably and to bring people together for a night of music in a way that hasn’t felt possible in the past year,” the ‘Lose You to Love Me’ singer said in a statement. “I can’t wait to be a part of it.”

For years, Global Citizen has used the power of celebrities’ connections with their fans to create a movement of “collective action” that shows government leaders how popular certain programs can be. Its annual Global Citizen Festivals in Central Park have furthered its goals of eliminating extreme poverty by 2030 with the help of fans of Beyonce or Coldplay or Stevie Wonder speaking out to world leaders on social media.

The group hopes to do it again with ‘VAX Live’.